I’m not sure where I read it, but I have long believed that it’s a good idea to always have a bottle of champagne chilling in the refrigerator. You just never know when a special occasion will present itself, or when someone will share news that is worthy of celebration. Sometimes, however, not everyone wants to drink bubbly, or perhaps you think it’s time to swap that bottle for something new. Whatever the circumstance, it’s never a bad time to open a bottle, and sometimes sharing a round of champagne cocktails is enough of an excuse. This week, I want to share the French 75, a wonderful twist on the Collins that is perfect for warm summer nights.
The French 75 is named for a French-made 75mm artillery canon that saw widespread use in World War I. It’s revolutionary recoil design allowed rapid firing without the need to reposition and aim before each shot. How this relates to the cocktail is anyone’s guess. Perhaps champagne, being French, was enough of a connection to the popular field gun at the time and a catchy name was what the creator was after. What we do know is that the French 75 cocktail did not appear in print until 1930 when it shows up in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book. Although most recipes call for a teaspoon of sugar, This can be difficult to dissolve quickly, especially if you are making more than one of these, so I substitute a quarter ounce of 1:1 simple syrup.
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz lemon juice
.25 oz simple syrup
4 oz chilled champagne
Add everything but the champagne to a shaker, add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a Collins glass filled with cracked ice. Top with champagne.
There are plenty of ways to put champagne to good use in a cocktail besides our Drink of the Week. In fact, many recipes that call for soda can be fancied-up by subbing champagne in its stead. That’s really all we are doing here. Take a Tom Collins, cut some of the sweet and substitute champagne for the club soda and you have it. You could also look at it from the opposite direction: it’s a sparkling wine fortified with gin and bit of fresh lemon sour. Either way you describe it, the flavors work nicely together and result in a simple, refreshing and elegant cocktail with a little more going on than a basic Tom Collins.
As you can see, I used a pink champagne in mine and garnished it with a lemon wheel. I like the effect, but you can use whatever you have chilling in the refrigerator. Like most cocktails, the better your ingredients the more you will enjoy your results, but this is also a great way to use up a bottle of sparkling wine that may not be as tasty by itself.